University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh has been a pioneer among UK higher education institutions (HEIs) in allocating its endowment strategically to create social impact. With around £1 billion under management, it’s the third largest endowment of its kind in the UK and is leading the way in bringing its investments in line with its mission and values. In 2019, it formed the Responsible Investment Network – Universities (RINU) along with the University of Cambridge and St Anne’s College, Oxford. The network is run by ShareAction and supported by Big Society Capital.
The University plans to invest £8 million for social impact. In recent years, Edinburgh has made commitments to four social impact funds managed by Big Issue Invest, Social and Sustainable Capital, and Social Investment Scotland. They aim for all these investments to make local impacts, contributing to the social and economic prosperity of the city and surrounding area.
The University’s first step was to commit £1 million to Big Issue Invest’s Social Enterprise Investment Fund II, investing in social enterprises and charities tackling issues such as homelessness, financial inclusion and youth unemployment. At the time, it was the largest financial investment made by a UK university.
The University has since gone on to make a £1 million commitment over a five-year period to Social Investment Scotland’s Social Growth Fund, which provides flexible loan and equity finance for social enterprises and charities in Scotland.
In May 2019, the University committed a further £1 million to Social and Sustainable Capital’s housing fund, providing loans to small and medium charities that support vulnerable people.
The University is also a key funder of the £1 million Big Issue Invest Power Up Scotland programme, supporting social enterprise startups across Scotland through loans and mentoring.
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Commitment to social impact
The University’s social impact investments target positive financial returns but are considered higher risk than traditional investments, which have a longer track record. The University believes this a risk worth taking when it comes to its long-term mission and the prospect of making a positive impact on society.
The University has also committed £60 million to businesses that directly benefit the environment. By 2021, it will be the largest university endowment in the UK to be free of fossil fuel investment.